Project to tap off on drinkers unable to help themselves

Scenes like this in Spalding could become a thing of the past with the launch of the new Blue Light Project to tackle 'treatment-resistant drinkers'.
Scenes like this in Spalding could become a thing of the past with the launch of the new Blue Light Project to tackle 'treatment-resistant drinkers'.
  • Training under way to equip people to help those battling the bottle
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In August 2012, the Lincolnshire Free Press and our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian, launched a campaign to reflect readers’ growing irritation over on-street drinking and its anti-social effects.

In August 2012, the Lincolnshire Free Press and our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian, launched a campaign to reflect readers’ growing irritation over on-street drinking and its anti-social effects.

We’ve Had Enough generated more than 1,800 signed coupons in an effort by people who live and work in Spalding to get something done about the stain of alcohol on the town’s well-being.

Now, Lincolnshire County Council, Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick, Nacro and Alcohol Concern have joined forces on a new Blue Light Project, as reported in last Tuesday’s Free Press, aimed at helping so-called ‘treatment-resistant’ drinkers in towns across the county.

A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “The Blue Light Project is a county-wide service which will focus on the most treatment-resistant drinkers in the county.

“As a result, they could come from anywhere across the county and so the project will impact all areas of Lincolnshire as professionals in other services have received Blue Light training, along with the Nacro Outreach service being county-wide.

Matt Clark who heads up the Spalding Night-Time Economy Forum.   Photo by David Dawson.

Matt Clark who heads up the Spalding Night-Time Economy Forum. Photo by David Dawson.

“By bringing together all these services, we hope to be able to help individuals who are dependent on alcohol and hopefully tackle any associated issues of anti-social behaviour, as well as similar problems, in our communities.”

The training given to groups, such as Spalding Street Pastors, children’s and adult services workers, housing officers and the police, is based on an 84-page manual produced by Alcohol Concern called Working with Change-Resistant Drinkers.

Mike Ward, co-author of the manual with Mark Holmes, said: “The Blue Light Project grew out of a perception that responses to problem drinkers were often missing out an important group of clients which were those people who are not yet ready to change their drinking habits.

“Some people have said ‘if they don’t want to change their drinking habits, let them get on with it’.

I welcome this initiative because it recognises that dealing with the underlying causes of heavy drinking can be more effective than merely throwing the weight of the law against drinkers.

Rev Steve Weatherly-Barton, chairman of Churches Together in Spalding and District,

“But the problem with that is they are the most costly group to the community, frequently turning up at hospitals or custody suites after committing violence or anti-social behaviour.

“Lincolnshire is one of the key local authorities to have come on board and we are training outreach workers who will meet these clients and work better with them.”

The Blue Light Project has been welcomed by groups across the civic, business and social landscape of Spalding.

Rev Steve Weatherly-Barton, chairman of Churches Together in Spalding and District, said: “As a minister, but also a former taxi driver, I have seen so much evidence of the misery suffered by people with a drink problem, as well as the anti-social and criminal behaviour it can lead to.

Acting inspector Jo Reeves of South Holland community policing team.''Photo by Tim Wilson.

Acting inspector Jo Reeves of South Holland community policing team.''Photo by Tim Wilson.

“I welcome this initiative because it recognises that dealing with the underlying causes of heavy drinking can be more effective than merely throwing the weight of the law against drinkers.

“Our street pastors in Spalding are doing a wonderful job of giving practical and emotional support to people they encounter on the streets of the town, so I am sure they will support this project and benefit from it.”

Matt Clark, chairman of the Spalding Night-Time Economy Forum, claimed that the project highlighted a much bigger problem of what he called “unmanaged alcohol consumption”.

“This is a national problem and not localised or, as many may try to infer, in anyway related to our immigrant population.

“Whilst any initiative to improve public health is to be welcomed, it is clear that this issue again stems from unmanaged alcohol consumption and is not an indication that social drinkers are a problem.

“It also highlights that the consumption of alcohol is best done in the managed environment of on-license premises, such as bars, clubs, restaurants, that are equipped with knowledge and experience of dealing with the outcomes of alcohol consumption, whether excessive or not.

Mike Ward and Mark Holmes of Alcohol Concern.

Mike Ward and Mark Holmes of Alcohol Concern.

“They can also undertake the prevention of crime and disorder on the streets of towns and cities, including Spalding, by the use of CCTV and security staff. There must now be more pressure brought to bear on off-licences and, more specifically, supermarkets that are selling alcohol at cost and in large volumes, blatantly ignoring the licensing objectives.”

In the meantime, Spalding Community Policing Team appears to have adopted tactics from the rugby field in order to make the town centre a safe place to go at night.

Initiatives such as the introduction of Safezones to inform people about safe drinking levels, personal safety and how to stop violent flare-ups have been supported by a voluntary code of conduct between off-licences in Spalding town centre to promote greater responsibility in managing the sale of alcohol.

Speaking to the Free Press last week, acting community policing inspector for South Holland Jo Reeves said: “The voluntary code (of conduct) is having a good effect and police will continue to work with the licensing authority to tackle problem locations and take licensees to review where appropriate.

“In the meantime, we will continue to develop these programmes in conjunction with South Holland District Council and local groups to ensure that they are appealing and well-utilised to prevent problems for the wider community.”

New scheme to help society’s most treatment-resistant drinkers and offenders